Ром Харре (Великобритания). Комментарий к докладу Ильи Касавина - Iv российский философский конгресс

Ром Харре (Великобритания). Комментарий к докладу Ильи Касавина

Rom Harre (Great Britain) Commentary on Kassavine: Epistemology and Idea of Interdisciplinarity

^ The Forms of Interdisciplinarity

I can best begin my commentary on Ilya Kasavin’s discussion by reflecting on Mirsky’s suggestion that interdisciplinarity presupposes that a new system of concepts and rules for their application would simply emerge in an interdisciplinary study, such as agricultural chemistry. It would be sufficiently coherent to allow for `genuine scientific results’. But paradoxically, if there are such results it can only be because one of the disciplines has overtaken and absorbed the other. This raises interesting conceptual questions about the semantics of the terminologies of each individual discipline, as they existed prior to the setting up of interdisciplinarity. For example, `crop’ is a concept from agriculture, and `nitrogen’ a concept from chemistry. To which system of concepts does `nitrogen deficiency’ belong? This question is raised by the fact that we may come to describe a crop as displaying nitrogen deficiency. Note that the chemical term put to use in making an interdisciplinary term expresses a normative concept in contradistinction to the descriptive character of the original two concepts. Each term as it appears in the proposition in question, `This crop shows all the signs of nitrogen deficiency’, is transformed by its juxtaposition to the other. The upshot of the meaning transformation is three sciences not two.

There is another way that an interdisciplinary domain might arise, when one science provides the explanatory underpinnings for the phenomena recognized and categorized in another. In this case there is no semantic fusion. Take the example of chemistry and physics, much discussed recently. Chemical processes are now understood to be mediated by physical processes, such as electron exchange. Here we have a hierarchical relation that creates an interdisciplinary domain, in which explanation is from one discipline and the analysis of phenomena from another.

Kasavin draws on the idea of relatively high development between disciplines to locate the context for achieving a worthwhile interdisciplinarity, rather than a simple reduction of one discipline to another. This idea suggests the question of what can be meant by `level of disciplinary development being higher’ in each of the disciplines. How do we make such a comparative judgment of the levels of sophistication of geography and anthropology in reflecting on the viability of interdisciplinary studies of anthropological geography (or `human geography’ as it used to be called)? By what criteria would such a judgment be made? The example of physical chemistry above does not easily admit of a comparative judgment of levels of development. Each is a highly developed science, by any standards. Even so the relation may be imperialistic – in which the concepts of one domain absorb and transform the concepts of the discipline originally adjacent to it. There has recently been a lively debate in philosophy of chemistry as to whether the use of quantum mechanics in understanding reaction dynamics effectively reduces chemistry to physics. The argument turned on the possibility of giving autonomous accounts of the meanings of the two sets of terms, the one from chemistry and the other from physics. In turn this debate turned on such issues as relevant criteria of identity. Could one pick out chemical elements by the use of criterial terms from physics without presupposing a huge range of chemical concepts?

Another example of a current debate concerns the way language studies and neurological studies have begun to transform psychology in two seemingly different directions. Will the mainstream discipline of psychology eventually be transformed completely, if the relation between psychology and either of the rivals continues to be imperialistic? Even more so would be development of the trend to couch explanations of psychological phenomena in terms of computational models of cognitive processes.

I can agree with Kasavin’s first thesis, that interdisciplinarity is not a deviation from the proper path of scientific development, but an essential way by which the sciences move forward. As I have pointed out there are several forms that progressive interdisciplinarity can take, and there are always contestable issues over the question of when and/or whether the creation of an interdisciplinary domain licenses the reduction of one of the original sciences to the other member of new domain.

^ Is Philosophy an Interdisciplinary Domain? What is Philosophy?

What about philosophy as an interdisciplinary domain? The main thrust of Kasavin’s paper is an examination of some considerations in which philosophy seems to be just such a domain. First it is important to agree on which of the many conceptions of philosophy we are analyzing. In the discussion to follow I will presume that philosophy is an intellectual activity in the course of which we try to bring out the presuppositions of human practices and subject them critical scrutiny.

At least in one sense the activity of philosophizing would be impossible without some human practice as its subject matter. So philosophy of law could not exist unless there were the practices of the institutions of the law, such as criminal trials, gathering of evidence and so on. This does not lead to an interesting sense of interdisciplinarity, since there is no suggestion of an imperialist reduction of the topic domain to the analytical domain. The practice of law does not become the practice of philosophy nor does the practice of philosophy become the practice of law.

The suggestion might be that philosophy could be one of the components of an interdisciplinary domain, with some established science as the other component. In that case such a domain as `philosophy of physics’ might be neither physics nor philosophy, if the semantic fusion and consequent transformation of meaning of key terms occurs as it does when two sciences meet.

Or, the suggestion might be that philosophy is itself always and already an interdisciplinary domain. Now we would have to ask: What would the multiple disciplines be here so that philosophy as an interdisciplinary domain could emerge from their juxtaposition? Would it be as an explanatory hierarchy (Wittgenstein explaining philosophical problems as illusions brought about by misunderstanding language) or would it be imperialistic? In short is there a form of Interdisciplinarity in which philosophy as an autonomous discipline is reduced to and displaced by something else, for example the sociology of knowledge, naturalized epistemology or some such?

There are other possibilities than reduction to sociology or psychology. History of philosophy perhaps might be one discipline, and epistemology could be the other. The history of epistemology would displace epistemology as a distinct branch of enquiry, as might be illustrated by Richard Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, in which the emergence of epistemology is presented as a historical development of a philosophical mistake of seventeenth century philosophers such as John Locke. Rorty displaces a philosophical discussion of the nature of knowledge by an historical discussion of the emergence of a position.

Kasavin argues that the recruitment of various sociological and psychological disciplines to the understanding of paradigm shifts, for example, is not a superscientific explanation proposing a `mechanism’, which might be true or false. Instead, he proposes that we view the work of such a project as a kind of `picture’. The epistemologist who constructs the picture is doing neither of the tasks I sketched in the first section, but perhaps aiming at making the paradigm shift intelligible by whatever means lie to hand. I think it follows from this that each account of a paradigm shift, for example, cannot serve as evidence for an inductive generalization to all paradigm shifts, past or future. It is not a theory of scientific progress. Kasavin’s claim bears a striking similarity to Wittgenstein’s insight, that philosophers do not build theories.

However, when philosophy shifts into the analytical mode, then there may be a complete transformation between philosophy of the past and that of the present and future, and the only link between disciplines (now superseded) may be just historical continuity. Here we could depend on Wittgenstein’s concept of `family resemblance’ between the many uses of the word `philosophy’, being wary of making any claims to there being something in common to them all.

Perhaps, as Kasavin argues, philosophy is essentially an interdisciplinary study but nevertheless sui generis in relation to what is drawn on from the natural and human sciences. No doubt philosophers draw on material from various disciplines but their activity is the extraction of presuppositions and the analysis of concepts, and that is neither a natural nor a human scientific procedure. We need the psychology of creativity, and studies of creative geniuses. That is something for psychologists, while philosophers spend their time analyzing the very notion of `creativity’, the presuppositions of the very idea that there can be knowledge and so on. Perhaps an example would be useful to see just what an epistemologist is doing when organizing a dialogue between different knowledge types.

Kasavin’s emphasis of the richness of the philosophical domain is right, but I am not sure that philosophers can or should aim at some kind of `universal synthesis’. It seems to me that it is much more a matter of finding fields of family resemblances between kinds of knowledge claims, describing them rather than attempting to adjudicate between them. What is similar and what is different between knowledge claims in chemistry and in cosmology? There are experiments in chemistry but only observations in cosmology. What is similar and what is different between knowledge claims in linguistics and in history? Language has a psychological basis in individual human beings, whereas history is based on documents and other evidential remains from the past. Following out these questions in detail would enable us to obtain a Wittgensteinian surview or perspicuous representation of the `grammar’ of knowledge claims, so avoid making mistaken identifications mediated only by apparent grammatical analogies. It may be that there is no one concept of `knowledge’ underlying each and every knowledge claim.

In addition to this domain of family resemblances there is another, namely the family of uses of the concept of practical knowledge, `knowing how’. Is knowing how to blow up a balloon for a children’s party anything like knowing how to solve a second order differential equation?

In this sense philosophy would be interdisciplinary, since each candidate knowledge claim is embedded in its own characteristic discipline. This is a different kind of interdisciplinarity from the case of physics as the science of the explanatory domain for which chemistry is the science of the descriptive domain.


Kasavin’s paper is a timely reminder of the still unsettled question of the methods and value of philosophy as a discipline. It helps us to see that the way the philosophy is interdisciplinary is unlike other cases of interdisciplinarity, such as the fusion or hierarchizing of disciplines. In Wittgenstein’s terms, philosophy is the study of `grammar’, the ways that concepts are related to one another and the variety of their meanings which may hidden within the shape of a single word.

^ Ром Харре (Великобритания). Гибридная психология: союз дискуср-анализа с нейронаукой

Rom Harre (Great Britain). Hybrid Psychology: The marriage of discourse analysis with neuroscience


As the 21st Century opened the controversial and unstable discipline of `academic psychology’ seemed to separating into two radically distinct and perhaps irreconcilable domains. Discursive psychology focused on the management of meaning in a world of norms while Neuropsychology focused on the investigation of brain processes loosely correlated with intuitively identified cognitive processes. In this paper I want to sum up the case for reconciliation between these two domains in a hybrid science that brings them together into a synthesis more powerful than anything psychologists have achieved before.

The fundamental principle of discursive psychology identifies the instruments of cognition as symbols and of the repertoire of symbolic instruments, the languages of everyday life are the most important for the tracking the mentality of human beings. Hybrid psychology depends on the intuition that while brains can be assimilated into the world of persons, as among the instruments people use for carrying out many of their projects, people cannot be assimilated into the world of cell structures and molecular processes.

^ The Central Role of Language

Though I have emphasized the breadth of the range of symbolic means that we must attend to in understanding how we perform cognitive tasks, language remains the most important both as an exemplar of discursive processes and as model for understanding those procedures that are not strictly linguistic. It will be wise to look closely at the part played by language as a vehicle for thought.

^ Language and the Limits of the Thinkable

It hardly seems controversial to claim that people use symbolic systems of various kinds as instruments for thought. However, many philosophers and psychologists have believed that thought exists independently of the symbolic forms in which it is clothed and by means of which it is expressed. For example a distinction between `thought' and the linguistic forms in which it is represented, was prominent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Thomas Hobbes held that were sequences of ideas and that there were also sequences of words. By a kind of one-to-one mapping the latter were matched to the former.

Words so connected as that they become organs of our thought, are called SPEECH, of which every part is a name [of a thing or of a thought] (Hobbes, Leviathan (1655: 15)).

Sometimes a cognitive act, such as deciding which dish to choose from the menu, is achieved by manipulating symbols of other kinds, such as images and mental pictures. Sometimes symbols have a material embodiment in compasses and maps.

Language, though of great importance, is not the only medium of cognition. Let us remind ourselves of the basis of the distinction central to the very idea of cognitive psychology, between things which have significance only in themselves, and those things which have the remarkable property of intentionality, pointing beyond themselves. Discursive psychology is based on the principle that whatever media there are, for instance the non-linguistic practice of sketching a map to convey to a visitor how to find one’s apartment, is cognitive just in so far as it can be seen to be intentional and normative. The visitor must understand the sketch not just as a pattern of lines on paper, but as a representation of the neighboring terrain, with the presumption shared by host and visitor alike, that the sketch is within the demands of the task, accurate..

Edward Sapir (1949) and Bejamin Lee Whorf (1956) are often credited with the thesis that forms of thought are determined by language. Sapir and Whorf share the thesis, that distinctions which become embedded in grammar limit or constrain the forms of thought which are readily available to the user of the language in question.

^ Each language favors, but does not determine a certain style of thinking.

Put this way the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis would have seemed quite commonsensical to Wittgenstein, for whom the frames within which we formulate thoughts are none other than taken-for-granted grammars.

In the discussion to follow I will be assuming that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, as I have presented it here, is generally acceptable.

^ Language as the Medium of Public Expression of Private Experience

If we are to be able to make a study of public language use as a method for investigating psychological phenomena, some of which are private, then we must have a suitable account of the relation of the public activities of speaking and other symbolic acts to the private activities and states they express. The notion of `expression' that will serve as the basis of that account, restoring the role in had in nineteenth century psychology (Danziger, 1997). I will show how a simple extension of Wittgenstein's famous Private Language Argument opens the way to a general distinction between using language to describe our private experience and using it to express that experience. This distinction will serve to give general support to the discursive method for exploring both private and public cognitive acts.

Language use is not only public, as in conversation, producing an interpersonal realm of meanings. There is also a private realm of human experience, and private uses of symbolic systems that play a key part in its production. How are the features of that world to be studied by psychologists and philosophers? To understand the views of discursive psychologists on this issue we need to draw on another important distinction that plays a major role in the psychological aspects of Wittgenstein's later philosophy. This is the distinction between expression and description.

The distinction is an important ingredient in the famous Private Language Argument (Wittgenstein, 1953, §§ 240 -- 315) in the course of which several points of importance are established. The general question Wittgenstein is discussing is whether a language could exist if the way meaning was established was solely by pointing to exemplars, drawing the attention of the learner to examples of what a word is used to denote. This idea seems reasonable when the meaning of words for large public objects like palaces or elephants are being taught. But could it work if the exemplars were strictly private somethings, such as private feelings? If words could be learned by pointing to such feelings then a strictly private language would be possible. But if the exemplars are strictly private they could not be used to teach anyone else the use of the relevant words, or even to serve as stable basis for the speaker's own practice. How do we learn them, if we cannot learn them by pointing to public examplars?

The process of developing a vocabulary for private feelings, begins, he suggests with natural expressions of pain, joy, and so on. As a child develops it learns to substitute vocalisations and finally verbal formulae, that function in the same way as the natural expressions they displace. The words `I'm so happy' express my happiness rather than describe my private feelings. Of course when I say such a thing I do have private feelings to express. But the relation between the verbal act and the feeling is not that of description to object described. If it were a case of description the words and the objects they describe would have been independent of one another. But if my words express my feelings, just as laughing and singing might, then, ceteris paribus, they are part of a whole, a complex of feelings and behavioural tendencies no part of which could be left out of what it is to be happy.

^ Language unifies the public and the private domains of experience.

The domain of psychology

In this section the two root metaphors on which the discursive pillar of cognitive psychology can be based will be spelled out. These are life as a stream, and life as a narrative. Associated with them is an analytical distinction enabling the organization of human activity into levels to be accomplished in a way that enriches our understanding of the uses of symbolic tools. This is the distinction between `actions; what people do intentionally, and `acts’, what is accomplished by what they do.

^ The Stream of Action

People are actively producing streams of thought and action, both public and private, embedded in a flux of bodily feeling. From this point of view perception is also a kind of action, something that a person does rather than passively receiving visual, auditory, tactile and auditory stimuli. The word `stream' in this account is a root metaphor suggesting that human activity is continuous. Yet we routinely and unthinkingly partition this stream in all sorts of ways. We express a belief, we claim have a memory, we make a decision, we have a temper tantrum and so on. Psychologists cannot but make use of these everyday partitions, for they define the subject matter of their studies. If we could not tell a temper tantrum from a memory claim there would be no psychology, indeed no human life at all as we know it.

^ Lives as Narratives

The second root metaphor is expressed in the proposal that we should think of the lives we lead as narratives, a kind of lived story. The metaphor of life as narrative is one the most important organizing concepts of the discursive turn for many new-wave psychologists, for instance Bruner, the Loughborough school (Edwards and Potter and many others.

^ The Act-Action Distinction

In the light of these interlocking metaphors can we find a general principle by means of which the stream of human activity should be partitioned in the most psychologically illuminating way? It seems natural to adopt the act/action distinction as a way of displaying one possible sequence of elementary parts consonant with the root metaphors. Actions are what people produce intentionally. Acts are the meanings or forces of actions. A nod is an action, which, in the appropriate circumstances can mean that one agrees with what has been proposed. In other circumstances the very same action can mean something else, but perhaps a bid at an auction. Acts not only constitute narratives, but are constituted by the story-line that the narrative realizes. In the garden of Gethsemane a kiss is a betrayal. In greeting the Pope it is a mark of submission and respect.

Having partitioned the stream of activity into a sequence of elements, relative to the story-line we are taking to be realized in that stream, the question of how the elements are related must be taken up. Within the general framework of the root metaphors are various subsidiary concepts that are relevant to this problem. For example there is rule-following, as living out a story-line according to someone’s instructions, and so on These are explanatory metaphors, used to create models of the productive process that is made `visible' by the use of the act/action distinction in analyzing strips of human life.

In summary we can say that the discourse metaphor involves the following main theses:

a. We produce both public and private discourse.

b. We produce both verbal and non-verbal acts.

c. Public and private, verbal and non-verbal acts fall under the same general system of categories, both analytically and explanatorily.

^ A stream of acts is interpreted as a narrative

Mind as Discourse

The choice of `discourse' as the leading metaphor is intimately related to the idea that the flow of intentional actions is the very `stuff of mind'. All sorts of practices fall under this heading. Some are linguistic, some are not. All are intentional, that is all are meaningful, and all are subject to standards of correctness, propriety and so on. In what sort of practice cognitive activities are being carried on, linguistic or non-linguistic, will determines the choice of analytical and explanatory models for the conduct of research.

According to the `discursive' point of view as sketched above, psychology is primarily the study of processes -- streams of human actions and interactions, which can be understood in terms of their meanings for the actors and interactors and the norms and traditions that are generally accepted by these people. Many of these streams of meaningful actions will be able to be made sense of as the living out of narratives, story-lines well known in the culture. Within this general scheme conversation is the most useful, but not the only model for analyzing such streams of action. Adopting this model for a research program invites the researchers to treat all that people do collectively and individually, privately and publicly, as if it were a kind of conversation, that is consisted of meaningful exchanges constrained by a local system of rules and conventions. There are many different jobs that language can be used for. We use words to give orders, to make apologies, to issue invitations, to express our hopes and fears, as well as to describe and explain matters in our environments.

^ Mind has both a private and a public aspect as a discourse.

This leads directly to the study of what people must know and what skills they must possess to be able to produce the required actions. Complementary to each mode of collective action there must a repertoire of individual skills and dispositions. One of the most difficult questions faced by psychologists is what form this knowledge takes. Is the common metaphor of a `store of knowledge’ of any value? In what does knowledge exist when it is not being made use of our expressed in some way?

Continuing the `discourse' metaphor, we will find Wittgenstein’s concept of a `grammar' helpful. He uses it for implicit and explicit clusters of rules which shape what we do, say and think in certain contexts. Sometimes a person is consciously following an instruction. This is one sense in which the word `rule' can be taken. It can also be used as a metaphor for cases in which a person or group of people act in an orderly way by habit, custom, convention and so on, in cases where there is no attention to explicit rules. Shweder (19 ) has identified a class of shaping principles that he calls `contingent universals'. He finds such principles in the customs of cultures other than our own, and of course they could be found in ours too. These seem to be just the sort of principles that would be found in a Wittgensteinian grammar. Shweder illustrates the idea of `contingent universals’ with some of the taken-for-granted conventions of living one finds in a small Indian town. It would be unthinkable to each fish on the day of one’s father’s funeral, or to have one’s hair cut for two weeks thereafter. People would no more dream of calling these `rules’ into question than we would on the principle that two distinct things cannot be in the same place at the same time. Of course, some kinds of things violate this rule! It is universal for some kinds of things, but not for others, just as certain funeral customs are universal for some kinds of people and not for others.

The final step in a psychological study of some cognitive procedure, say remembering or classifying, would be the proposal of a `grammar' or grammars expressing the norms that are evident in what people are doing. There are both tacit and explicit grammars. Polanyi (19 ) and Garfinkel (19 ) have pointed out that in order to use any explicit technique one must make use of a repertoire of tacit knowledge. When such knowledge is formulated explicitly the use of that knowledge as an explicit guide to thought and action will depend on yet another corpus of tacit knowledge. What was explicit in one context may be tacit in another.

^ The grammars of everyday life

Contemporary Anglo-American life, conceived in terms of discourse, seems to be shaped by three main grammars.

A Person or P-grammar, in which persons are the basic particulars and originating sources of activity. It comprises the tribal dialects and idiolects of everyday life. Among some of the specialised dialects of this generic grammar are the idioms of the courtroom, Freudian psychotherapy, and so on.

A main feature of P-grammars is the way that responsibility is dealt with. This is particularly important for a philosophy of psychology, since the transition from infancy to maturity of a being that has native agentive powers and acts teleologically, occurs along the dimension of growing responsibility for what it does. Shaver (1985) has proposed an analysis of responsibility dimensions that will do very well as a working grammar for much of the P-grammar of current English language folk psychology